By Dr Anshul Chugh
Dental problems were ever-present from ancient times but the importance and existence of dentistry came early in B.C. itself. We may not be familiar with our past history of dentistry but here are some interesting facts or instances to show how the dentistry had its importance from ancient time.
We have some revealing history till 1700 A.D. is illustrated here. I find it interesting to know that dentistry had its own existence like medicine and pharmacy.
- Oral disease has been a problem for humans since the beginning of time. Skulls of the Cro-Magnon people, who inhabited the earth 25,000 years ago, show evidence of tooth decay.
- The earliest recorded reference to oral disease is from a Sumerian text (circa 5,000 B.C.) that describes ‘tooth worms’ as a cause of dental decay. No one can deny that dentistry has made tremendous strides over the years, and the past, present and future of dentistry will be my topic of conversation.
- 2700 BC – Evidence that the Chinese used acupuncture to treat pain associated with tooth decay.
- 2600 BC – Death of Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, is often called the first ‘dentist’. An inscription on his tomb includes the title ‘the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians’. This is the earliest known reference.
- 500-300 BC — Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.
- 166-201 AD — The Etruscans practice dental prosthetics using gold crowns and fixed bridgework.
- 700 — A medical text in China mentions the use of ‘silver paste’, a type of amalgam.
- 1130-1163 — A series of Papal edicts prohibit monks from performing any type of surgery, bloodletting or tooth extraction. Barbers often assisted monks in their surgical ministry because they visited monasteries to shave the heads of monks and the tools of the barber trade—sharp knives and razors—were useful for surgery. After the edicts, barbers assume the monks’ surgical duties: bloodletting, lancing abscesses, extracting teeth, etc
- 1210 — A Guild of Barbers is established in France. Barbers eventually evolve into two groups: surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations; and lay barbers, or barber-surgeons, who performed more routine hygienic services including shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction.
- 1575 — In France Ambrose Pare, known as the Father of Surgery, publishes his Complete Works. This includes practical information about dentistry such as tooth extraction and the treatment of tooth decay and jaw fractures.
- 1685 – First dental textbook to be published in English, by Charles Allen, ‘The Operator for Teeth’.
- 1785 – John Greenwood served as George Washington’s dentist, and helped raised public awareness about porcelain teeth.
- 1790 — John Greenwood, son of Isaac Greenwood and one of George Washington’s dentists, constructs the first known dental foot engine. He adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.
These are few instances of the dental history till 1700 A.D. after this era next article will reveal more of the history till the advanced age.
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